November 8 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“I set a trap for you, Babylon, and you were caught before your knew it; you were found and captured because you opposed the Lord.” ~Jeremiah 50:24

OLD TESTAMENT

Spread a map of the ancient world on a table and you’ll see a region bracketed by two great superpowers—Egypt to the south and Babylon to the north. In between and nearby are nations with significantly less influence and might. Israel is right in the middle of it all. Edom is to her south, Ammon is across the Jordan to the east, Damascus (the people of Aram) is located in the north, the people of Kedar are on the Arabian Peninsula (modern-day Mecca), and Elam is southeast (on the Persian Gulf).

Every one of these nations is within the scope of Jeremiah’s message, and his message is one of judgment. The longest sermon is reserved for Babylon, whom God will use to topple the surrounding peoples. The Babylonian Empire will be one of the most renowned in human history, but the pride and violence with which they govern themselves and their conquests is their downfall. God will bring another nation from the north, Persia, to judge Babylon.

We must not read these prophecies and conclude that God is an angry tyrant hell-bent on the destruction of the world. Quite the opposite, in fact. God loves the world and all the nations of the world. He is heartbroken over the things people do. He has sent messengers again and again calling them to change. It may seem odd that I would draw attention to the doctrine of God’s love in the middle of all these sermons that are focused on judgment. I don’t want you to miss the fact that God isn’t reveling in meting out discipline. He sends messengers to warn people so that they will turn to Him and He will not have to judge them. He expresses delight in the cities of the world and sadness over what has happened to them. He even announces His plans to restore them.

I want to stress how important this tone of loving warning is! I think it’s the right tone for us to take too. God loves this world, the people of Damascus and Dallas, of Babylon and Bombay, of Elam and L.A. He loves our cities and towns. May we express that same love and share God’s longing for the restoration of the places we live.

NEW TESTAMENT

The first act of the ancient high priest was to offer sacrifices for his own sins. Then, he offered sacrifices for the sins of the people. Because of his own shortcomings, the high priest was able to deal more gently with the people he ministered to. (Every pastor can relate!) Though Jesus never sinned, he is able to deal more gently with us because he understands temptation. He knows the pull of the Evil One and the weakness of being human so He understands.

Many years ago, while I was pastoring a small congregation, I stopped by the home of a parishioner who was going through a very difficult time. I tried to comfort him with these words: “I am sorry that you are hurting. And while I can’t say that I personally have been where you are, I know that Christ feels your pain and He can fully understand your struggles.” He looked at me angrily and said, “He doesn’t know what I’m going through. He’s God!”

His view of God was uninformed and unhelpful. I’m so glad we don’t worship an aloof, uncaring, unfeeling, perfectionistic God who doesn’t understand our struggles! He’s been tempted so He understands us and He deals gently with us when we mess up.


Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.